Anal Itching

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Otherwise known as pruritus ani, anal itching is intense itching in and around the anus. Anal itching is a common problem that many people experience at some point.

Symptoms

  • Itchiness 
  • Soreness
  • Sensation of burning 

Causes

  • Excessive cleansing
  • Excess moisture
  • Infections (e.g., pinworms, fungus, skin infections, sexually transmitted infections)
  • Skin disorders (e.g., rash, psoriasis)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Certain food and drinks, including nuts, tomatoes, citrus, alcohol, dairy products and anything with caffeine

Diagnosis 

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will perform a physical exam to try to determine the cause. Sometimes the cause is not obvious. You may need to make lifestyle adjustments, and use trial and error until you figure it out.  

Treatments  

Treatment depends on the cause. Talk to your doctor to determine the best course of action. For instance, antibiotics can help if you have an infection. 

Itching or irritation may be treated with self-care and/or medication.

Self-care

  • Gently cleanse the area with water when bathing
  • Take a sitz bath several times a day (soak the area in warm tap water for 10 to 20 minutes)
  • Thoroughly dry the area 
  • Absorb moisture with gauze, cotton or cornstarch
  • Avoid scratching
  • Use unscented, unbleached toilet paper
  • Wear loose, cotton underwear and clothing
  • Avoid irritants (e.g., bubble baths, certain foods, perfume, dyes)
  • Avoid certain medications (e.g., narcotics, laxatives)
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly 

Medications

  • To ease itching, use topical capsaicin, or a cream/ointment containing hydrocortisone or other corticosteroids (over-the-counter or prescription)
  • To offer protection, use zinc oxide ointment
  • To treat infection, use prescribed antibiotics